Nov. 24, 2009 -- Concerned parents across the United States and Canada are taking a closer look at their babies' cribs this morning after the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the largest crib recall in history Thursday following the death of four infants -- the youngest 6 months old and the oldest 9 months old.
"We have had over 100 incidents and 15 entrapments and four tragic deaths of infants caught between the drop-side and the mattress: These infants have suffocated," Consumer Products Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenebaum told "Good Morning America" today.
The incidents, which took place in the United States and Canada, occurred when the drop-down sides of the cribs became detached and dozens of babies became entrapped between the side and the crib frame, or fell out of the crib altogether.
There are about 1.2 million units distributed in the United States, including about 147,000 Stork Craft drop-side cribs with the Fisher-Price logo, and 968,000 units distributed in Canada. Not all drop-down models have been recalled, only those with plastic hardware and a one-hand system to drop the side rail.
Stork Craft has released a toll-free number for consumers to call, or to order a free repair kit: (877) 274-0277.
It is not the first time cribs have been recalled because of drop-down side dangers. Nearly 5 million cribs have been recalled in the past two years, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has discussed banning drop-down sides.
"The hardwood can crack, a depression is made in the bed, and the baby's head gets caught in that depression and the baby can strangle and die," said Ann Brown, former commission chairwoman.
Delta Enterprises voluntarily recalled nearly 1.6 million older versions of its cribs with drop sides last year after two infant deaths. The company said nearly 1 million of the cribs require safety pegs that could be lost during reassembly and another 600,000 drop-side cribs have spring pegs that can wear out after many uses.
About 600,000 Simplicity drop-side cribs were voluntarily recalled in 2008 "due to a sizing problem with the crib's hardware," the safety commission said at the time.
The danger with drop-down cribs is that there are often parts that are broken, missing or misassembled. For instance, the crib's drop-side could come off its tracks and create a "hazardous gap which can lead to infant entrapment and suffocation."
IA million Simplicity and Graco cribs were recalled in 2007 after three infants became trapped in the crib and suffocated. In each instance, the consumer had installed the drop-rail side of the crib upside down, the safety commission said. The misconstruction created a similar gap in the crib that children can slide into and get stuck.
The crib industry Monday said parents should closely inspect the hardware on their cribs but insisted newer cribs that are properly put together are safe.
But Brown said the problem is not just user error.
Stork Craft Drop-Side Crib Recall One of Largest in History
"I think that's the classic industry foisting the blame onto the consumer, these are obviously not perfectly safe," Brown said in an interview with ABC News Monday.
There's a patchwork of standards when it comes to baby products. Some are mandatory regulations, but there are also voluntary standards and that can make it difficult to ensure a product is always as safe as it needs to be.
ASTM, the group that sets voluntary standards for a host of products, adopted last week a new voluntary standard for cribs that would effectively eliminate any drop-down sides.
The standard has yet to take effect. But it's a clear indication that there's pressure on the industry to move away from a design, although popular with parents, that has posed hazards for children.